Canada’s new polymer bills more durable, recyclable

$100 thumb“I don’t want fake money. I want real money.”

That is just one reaction Chasity Hauck , client assistance officer at the Royal Bank of Canada has received regarding the new bank notes now in circulation across Canada.

Canadians will no longer have to worry about accidentally throwing a bank note into the wash, only to discover it half-ripped and falling apart.

In November 2011, the Bank of Canada launched a new series of paper money, known as polymer notes – starting with the $100 bill.

The Bank of Canada lists the benefits of the new polymer money as “safer, cheaper and greener.”

New $100

The new rip-proof, polymer series of notes has better security features and is recyclable.
Used with the permission of the Bank of Canada.
Michele Witkowski, a Bank of Canada senior analyst, says the new notes have better security features – including holograms and transparency – and they are greener.

“Paper ones are destroyed,” she says. “They are shredded and then go to a landfill. For the polymer, when it gets to that point, we won’t be shredding them.”

In comparison to previous series of notes, the polymer series may seem more costly – 19 cents to produce the new bills, as opposed to only nine cents to produce the old bills – but Witkowski points out that the new series will last an estimated 2.5 times longer compared to the current version.

“There is a little bit more of an up-front cost but they are going to last much longer,” Witkowski says. “We will have to print less of them and we won’t have to replace as many either.

“The savings are in the longevity. It’s cheaper over the long term.”

Why start with the highest denomination bill?

Witkowski says that one of the reasons they started with the $100 bill is it isn’t as highly circulated as other notes, and therefore is easier to introduce first. Another deciding factor is the issue of counterfeiting.

As expected, the $100 bill is popular amongst counterfeiters, so is the $20 bill.

Witkowski says, “In the 2010 statistics it was very evenly split between the $20 bill and the $100 bill. Those tend to be most popular with criminals.”

She adds that the counterfeit statistic for 2010 for all of Canada was $2.6 million.

That might seem like a hefty number, but Witkowski says, “It has been declining the last few years, but we always want to be on top of it. We just want to be proactive on that front.”

The Look

The Bank of Canada website says the new bank notes “evoke the country’s spirit of innovation.”

Twenty-two-year-old Juleya Wagstaff agrees, and says she thinks it’s innovative and smart.

“The savings are in the longevity. It’s cheaper over the long term.”
— Michele Witkowski,
Bank of Canada

“It feels durable. I think that it’s a good step at being green or thinking green,” she says. “And anything that can be recycled is a good idea.”

So where did the innovative designs featured on the notes come from?

“In previous years we did extensive focus groups across Canada to talk about what Canadians want to see on their bank notes,” Witkowski says.

“We wondered what kinds of images and what kinds of themes would resonate with Canadians, and then we looked at security features too and what makes sense to put on our bank notes at this time.”

New $50

Furthermore, Witkowski says while Australia was one of the first countries to use polymer money, there are now over 30 other countries using the material in their notes, including Hong Kong, Romania and New Zealand.The $50 bill will be introduced in March.
Used with the permission of the Bank of Canada.

“The Bank of Canada looks at different types of materials and consults with other countries about what they have done with their money,” she says. “So there is a lot of consultation, but ultimately it is the Bank of Canada who decides” the final product.

The next denomination – the $50 note – will be introduced into circulation in March. By 2013, all other denominations will make the switch to polymer.

More information on the look, feel and features of the polymer series can be found at

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